We’ve heard some wild climate change solutions over the years but a question in today’s lightning round video pretty much takes the cake. I explain why it’s probably a bad idea. Plus questions about how we could move stars with stellar engines and what traveling at warp speed would be like.
Hey so I’ve gotten a lot of really angry comments lately saying that my background is setting off people’s OCD because my poster is a little bit off and I’m not sure… Wait… Oh, yeah, I see it.
Sorry to all the people whose day I apparently totally ruined because of this. Hang on, let me fix that.
Mark Hoffman – June – Patreon
Boy have I got a hum-dinger for ya, and allow me a bit of background before I pose the “question.”
Some years back I watched a natgeo special titled “When The Earth Stops Spinning,” for which the full version can be found here: https://youtu.be/xiqCowa0iQo
While the program itself takes multiple liberties (i.e. cause of rotational cessation, assuming Earth’s axial tilt is vertical, etc.), it still gave me an idea. The greatest effect the show mentions is that on oceanic levels. Therefore my question is:
Seeing as how sea-level is influenced by Earth’s rotational velocity, could it be theoretically plausible that encroaching ocean waters might be mitigated through reducing the Earth’s rotation?
I would describe this as a really clever terrible idea.
Clever because, you’re right, the Earth does have a bit of a bulge in the middle because of the centrifugal force from the Earth’s rotation, which is almost 1000 miles an hour at the equator.
Or 460 meters per second, which somehow sounds even crazier.
So yeah, all that mass gets flung out because of the rotation, meaning the sea level is higher closer to the equator than at the poles.
So it does stand to reason that if you slow down the rotation, the water level would lower, and possibly counteract the sea level rise from climate change.
Except, no. Horrible disaster. Horrible, just terrible disaster.
Without even getting into exactly what we would have to do to slow down the Earth’s rotation – I’ll let you guys fight about that in the comments – there are a few problems with this idea. First of all, all that water has to go somewhere. And that somewhere would be in the upper latitudes.
Yes, the water would go down around the equator, but it would rise precipitously around the poles.
But you’re probably saying, ‘Joe, of course you’re right about that – like you always are – but you’re forgetting that there’s a lot more people living around the equator and the temperate zones than there are at the poles. Eat that, brain boy!’
To which I would say, ‘Really? Brain boy? That’s your worst insult?’
And then you’d say, ‘No, that’s just what came to me in the moment, I could do a lot worse if I had a minute.’
And I’d go, ‘Ah, like you had a brain glitch?’
And you’d be all, ‘Yeah, shut up.’
And I’d say, ‘Oh my God, I’m the same way, the other day I introduced a buddy of mine to a group of friends and I totally forgot this one guy’s name. I’ve known him for 10 years, it was like it just fell out of my head.’
And you’d be, ‘I know, right? What’s that about?’
And we’d have a laugh about it and become friends. But back to this terrible idea of yours.
First of all there are still a lot of people living along coastlines in higher latitudes that are already dealing with sea level rise like Amsterdam, something like this would just do it in completely.
Not to mention all the river systems that would be overwhelmed with ocean water, flooding cities way inland and destroying millions of acres of cropland with briny seawater, which could cause food shortages.
Plus there’s the way this would disrupt ocean currents, which would create all kinds of chaos in our weather systems and maybe push more warm water into the arctic and melt even more sea ice, which might completely undo the effect we were going for in the first place.
But believe it or not that’s just the beginning of the problem.
Because a slower rotation means longer days. Longer days means the Earth’s surface gets exposed to the sun for longer, heating up the surface even more in the day and cooling it off even more at night.
Leading to hotter days and colder nights, which could lead to more weather disruptions.
But the worst part is it’s not just water that experiences this centrifugal bulge, the land does too.
Keep in mind, the surface of the Earth is just a bunch of thin plates floating around on top of a giant sea of magma. So if we slowed the Earth’s rotation, and the land around the equator goes down and the land at the poles expand outward, that’s a lot of bending and flexing between those plates.
Which we would experience as massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as the magma squeezes out of those joints between the plates as they grind and flex.
So now you have dozens, maybe hundreds of volcanoes spewing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, further warming the planet – or covering the entire planet in a haze of ash, blotting out the sun, and leading to a snowball Earth situation for 100,000 years.
Did I mention this is a terrible idea?
But, if you’re totally dedicated to this idea, you’re in luck because the Earth’s rotation is naturally slowing down.
It’s got to do with gravitational friction from the moon, not worth going into, but Earth’s day is increasing by 1.8 milliseconds per 100 years.
So just wait about 5 million years. Problem solved.
donasalyer – June – Patreon
Solar engines; moving our sun through the universe. I’ve been seeing a lot on that recently, so I wasn’t sure if there was some new breakthrough.
No… not unless someone built some Von Neuman probes that I haven’t heard of.
A stellar engine is a massive, Dyson Sphere-sized megaproject that would require millions of autonomous drones and probes to accomplish over several centuries and mining every asteroid in the solar system. And probably Mercury.
Mercury’s a goner. We’re totally going to dismantle Mercury someday.
Many of you may have seen this Kurzgesagt video on stellar thrusters – I’m assuming many of you saw this, it got 16 million views. As I’m sure so will this video.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3y8AIEX_dU&t=333s
In that video, they talk about the Shkadov Thruster, which is the most well-known type of stellar engine.
It’s a simple idea, basically you create a giant parabolic mirror on one side of a star, and it bounces all the photons and energy from that side of the star in the opposite direction, creating a thrust that moves the star slowly over time.
There’s no moving parts, there’s no energy required to run it, all you have to do is build a giant mirror roughly one and a half times the diameter of the sun. Which is 109 times the diameter of the Earth. We may need more than Mercury.
But, given enough time… and enough planets… some future superintelligent AI that has wiped out humanity could possibly build something like this and make it possible to scoot our solar system around the galaxy.
The reason why they’d want to do this could be to avoid a collision with another star or supernova in the far future, or if say we found a habitable planet in another solar system – preferably a younger star – we could kinda mosey over closer to it and make a new home there.
Might give us the ability to outlast our own sun. And by us of course I mean the technology that replaces us.
There are other ideas for this, in that same video they talk about a new concept called a Caplan Thruster that would feed off the sun and create thrust by fusing helium into oxygen and then push against the sun with hydrogen jets.
This is… More complicated. A giant Earth-sized engine burning at billions of degrees for hundreds of thousands of years. I have a skeptical.
But it would move us around a lot faster. So there’s that.
And there are other stellar engine ideas but still, this would be a project that takes at least tens of thousands of years to build and literally millions of years to actually move us around so that’s why I say there’s just no way that the human race would pull this off. We clearly cannot think that long-term as a species.
This is a project for some future species or whatever advanced technology replaces us. I hope they have fun with it.
As for why you might have seen more about this lately, I don’t know. These subjects tend to suddenly trend for no reason. As far as I know, there hasn’t been any kind of breakthrough on this idea. But I could be wrong.
The big question is, would we be more likely to develop warp drive technology to move around the galaxy and the universe? My bet is that we’d develop that before we could make this happen. You guys tell me what you think in the comments.
Speaking of warp drives…
Mike Reed – June – Patreon
If we ever achieve warp speed, and travel away from earth, would it be possible to use a telescope and peer back into earth’s history?
Actually, yeah. I think we could.
Because if warp drive is faster than light, then wherever we stopped, the light from Earth would be trailing behind us so if we turned around and looked at the Earth, the light reaching us would be from the past.
Now we would need a very large telescope to be able to actually discern anything from Earth from that far away, but that’s a technical issue. I mean if we can make warp drive a thing, I’m sure we could figure that out.
It would be like watching the history of aliens on an exoplanet.
Another interesting thought is if you were looking backward, would you see time go in reverse? Actually, I guess not, if spacetime was literally being warped around you… I don’t know.